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Ethiopia has been making remarkable and successful efforts to fight poverty; it deserves support not censure or vilification




The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International organizations, Representative Christopher Smith held a hearing entitled “Ethiopia After Meles: The Future of Democracy and Human Rights”, on June 20, 2013. To this hearing, he invited, among others, individuals from a designated terrorist group as well as others committed to the armed overthrow of the Government. Moreover, Representative Smith announced that he planned to try to introduce in Congress a punitive bill against the Ethiopian Government. This, he says, is intended to try to force Ethiopia to follow a certain prescribed path in its political and economic development. It might be added that this is not the first time Mr. Smith has tried to do this, and it appears he made up his own mind about the future of Ethiopia a long time ago. 

Letter to
Representative Christopher Smith
The Honorable Christopher Smith
Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa,
Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International organizations

Dear Honorable Congressman,

I would like to express my serious concern about the recent hearing you held on Ethiopia, entitled “Ethiopia after Meles: The Future of Democracy and Human Rights”, which was held on June 20th 2013. Although the interest you have shown regarding issues in Ethiopia, particularly in promoting democracy and human rights, must be appreciated, your recent hearing raises serious questions of bias and distortion. Your concluding announcement that you now plan to try to introduce a punitive bill on this subject, does rather beg the question of what was the intended objective of your hearing.

A hearing is presumably designed to gather the evidence necessary to establish a true picture of the matter under discussion. This requires producing and establishing all the facts relevant to the issue, and not just those selected to confirm to preconceived ideas and prejudices. The hearing of the 20th of June hardly met such expectations involving as it did invitations to extremist leaders of a group that has been designated as a terrorist organization by the House of Peoples’ Representatives of Ethiopia, to testify about a government that the group have publicly committed themselves to try to topple by violence and terrorist activities.

Much to the surprise of observers, Honorable Congressman, following this hearing, you announced your intention to introduce a bill against Ethiopia, despite the origins of this seriously flawed testimony. I would therefore urge you to listen again to other more balanced voices, including my own, which can provide detailed and irrefutable evidence of a starkly different picture that the one painted by the extremists who were primary actors at your hearing. I would after all note that there was some rather more positive testimony from the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and from USAID that you appear to have ignored. There is also a great deal of available evidence of political and economic development and in progress in democracy and human rights, all of which you disregard.

The second point I would make is that any such bill and attendant sanctions against Ethiopia will not help promote democracy and human rights. It will also, of course, damage the friendly relations and strong cooperation that exists between Ethiopia and the United States of America, relations which in themselves have a record of assisting in the expansion of democratic norms in Ethiopia.

Honorable Congressman, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia, or anywhere else, can only be nurtured and strengthened through constructive dialogue between political parties, civil society and the participation of all citizens of the country. It cannot be imposed by violence and terrorism, nor by imposition from outside.

I would therefore, ask you to reconsider your intentions to try to introduce the bill that you are apparently contemplating. Ethiopia’s progress in its efforts to fight poverty has been remarkable. Rather, I would ask you to provide support to Ethiopia’s efforts, not to try to introduce punitive sanctions which will threaten the significant progress being made in democracy and human rights in Ethiopia.

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